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Exploitation of Student-Athletes or Misinformation?

CBS’s playing of “One Shining Moment” at the start of April signals the end of the college basketball season, while simultaneously closing the year in major money-making athletics for the NCAA. Like clockwork, headlines and hot takes will come from publications like ESPN and their broadcasters about the seeming “exploitation” of college athletes.

The argument was recently summarized by prominent college basketball analyst Jay Bilas on the sports-comedy podcast Pardon My Take.

“I just find it ridiculous that this enterprise makes billions upon billions of dollars and everyone gets paid their fair market value except for the athletes,” Bilas said.

Bilas, leading the charge when it comes to the fundamental changes within the NCAA’s system of dealing with student-athletes, is a firm believer that many student-athletes are exploited.

One of the main figures that likes to get thrown around when speaking about this issue is the NCAA’s TV deal with CBS and Turner Sports worth 8 years and $8.8 billion. The expectation that comes along with the seeming exploitation of student-athletes and the idea that the NCAA is a money-sucking black hole, causes this figure to be seen as a negative to college-athletes, as they apparently do not see a dime of this.

The NCAA points out, however, that over 90 percent of the money will be used to support student-athletes through all levels of NCAA Division 1 and 2 sports.

While there are some NCAA athletes who likely earn more for their school than they are receiving, that number is very, very small. In the SEC, schools spend an average of almost $163,000 per student athlete.

Are student-athletes actually being exploited, or are there just a select few athletes that possibly don’t receive the full amount of compensation that they deserve?

The former is easier to grab headlines with, but the latter is true. Less than one hundred athletes earn their school more than is spent on them.

However, the rules should not change for this very small number of athletes to make a few thousand dollars before they go on to make millions in the professional ranks.

Paying student-athletes more than they already receive, will open the floodgates for schools to pay athletes in certain sports—basketball and football—thousands upon thousands of dollars while simultaneously taking away opportunities for thousands of athletes across the country from Division 1 to Division 2, from every other sport.

While yes, a few athletes do not get fully compensated for their efforts and collegiate fame, they help pay the way for thousands of athletes, which is why the rule can’t be changed for these few athletes that will end up getting paid anyways.

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